Lofa Caucus Lacks Current Info for President’s Visit -As Chair X-rays Lofa Road Delay; Blamed It on Govt
Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo has been giving updates on the planned visit of President George Manneh Weah, which he noted has been postponed from its initial schedule of May 17-21, 2021 to another date. The senator’s update also covered the status of the ongoing Gbarnga-Salayea road, commonly referred to as the Lofa Road.
Giving background of the visit, the Lofa County Senator said he received a formal communication, with reference MVAS/MIA, RL/0139/156/21, from Mr. Varney Sirleaf, Minister of Internal Affairs, informing him as chairman of the Lofa Legislative Caucus of the President’s visit to the county.
Senator Zargo quoted the communication that the President would have had the opportunity during the visit to hear from the citizens and as well as see firsthand ongoing development projects in the County. The senator added that it was also expected, as they have always stressed, that the President would have had formal and informal interactions with the Lofa Legislative Caucus.
He lamented that not much information about the President’s visit was made known to the Caucus which even made them to have gone far ahead of time in Voinjama to hold consultative meetings with the people to solicit their views on what to present to the President when he visits the county.
“However, the date of the President’s visit came and passed without the Caucus receiving any formal communication for postponement on the President’s visit to Lofa County, even though the Caucus was in full gear to receive the President. There is information that reasons for the postponement of the President’s visit and a set new date was announced 72hrs ago (that is on Tuesday) through Monrovia City Mayor, Hon. (Uncle) Jefferson Tamba Kojee”, He said.
Speaking on the status of the Gbarnga-Salayea Road, commonly referred to as ‘The Lofa Road,’ Senator Zargo said his visit to Lofa to prepare for the President’s visit afforded him the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the status of the 81km road. Barely 96hrs ago while on my way from Lofa County, I had the opportunity to visit the 81km. road
The senator further said his team was received by the Chinese Project Manager, Mr. Zhang who expressed his disappointment as it relates to the stalling of the project. Senator Zargo quoted the Chinese Project Manager that the duration of the project as stated in the signed contract was for a period of three (3) years, adding that though said period has elapsed significantly, the project, to the contrary, is still lagging behind.
“My investigation, as was confirmed by the project manager, established that the Government of Liberia and four (4) other financial institutions entered into an agreement to fund the project. Investigation also revealed that all of the four entities have made good on their obligations as it relates to the implementation of the project, the only exception being the government of Liberia”, Mr. Zargo said.
The Project which has an effective date on June 1, 2018 was expected to have been completed on May 31, 2021 at the cost of $47.9m, Senator Zargo further disclosed.
Financial information available about the project, Senator disclosed, has it that the other four funders of the project in addition to the government of Liberia are the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Saudi Fund for International Development (SFD)
He said CHICO has expressed that the expansion of the road which is usually done prior to most other aspects of the road construction is currently being hindered, especially within Lofa County segment of the road, stressing that this is so because owners of tree crops and properties along the shoulder of the road have not been compensated and that destroying same without compensating the properties’ owners may likely occasion liability of damages against CHICO. Hence, the company calls on the GOL to expeditiously settle her citizenry.
He furthered that the management of CHICO also complained about cost of maintenance for equipment that are sitting in their camp, most especially wherein money is not coming in to offset some of these maintenance costs.
Senator Zargo said he was also informed that CHICO had lost four (4) Million USD as a direct result of the delay in the Lofa Road project.
In addition to the challenges facing the project, the senator said he was told that the consultant had to reduce their seven-member road engineers to three as the other four have refused to return due to the Liberian government’s handling of the Lofa road issue, and liabilities covering local staffs.
“On the other hand, and more seriously, CHICO cautioned the financial institutions, especially GOL of pulling out. There is a caveat that if the delay cannot be remedied, they may result in carrying their equipment to active project sites in the country or the sub region to avoid further liabilities”, he added
Senator Zargo said at the end of their discussion, CHICO called on him to prevail on the Government to make good its obligation as it relates to the road project so that active work could continue as well to curtail the accumulated interest brought about as a result of delay.
The senator disclosed that the company also opted for a cordial working relationship between locals living in places to be reached by the road project, rationalizing that those locals would eventually be the primary beneficiaries of the road project.